Kevin Kelly discusses "Fall, or Dodge in Hell" with author Neal Stephenson

Yes, I had the same inkling.
Checklist for the text:

  • lack of profanity
  • lack of sex scenes (mostly, and when present, referred to obliquely)
  • young protagonists
  • “coming of age” theme
  • lots of references to schools, teachers, lessons, classes, students, learning (calca), proofs, examinations
  • adventures

Indeed yes.

One thing I liked doing was putting Anathem on the car audio when it was my turn to drive in the parent-carpool hauling kids around.

Yo: keep Austin weird.

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The Baroque Cycle is full up on Shaftoes and Watterhouses. Not to mention Root. It is 100% connected to Cryptonomicon.


I feel the same way about Seveneves.

He should have written and published the first half (which stands on its own), thereby forcing himself to slow down and think before writing and publishing the second half (which is a mash of brilliant but incomplete ideas which do not stand on their own, with or without the first half).

Still and all, I admire that he is willing to experiment. Other than his works keep getting longer (I crave short shories, dammit), Stephenson does not appear to be in a rut.

Which is unusual: most writers have one story to tell, over and over, and if they are gifted they find diverse ways to engage our attention.

Frank Herbert? Rut. And no engaging stylist: apart from putting science into science fiction, his primary gift to literature is the epigraph.

John Varley? Christ, I love, I adore his early short stories – nothing finer – but I couldn’t bear Steel Beech … it’s got all the same short story ideas bloated up in a big “I can write as many words as I want” uber-novel-cake.

Stephenson? Stepheson keep confounding his readers with … well, call it what you will.

I am reminded of Neil Young’s career.


Cards on the table time: if I belonged to an Order, it would be Halikaarnian.

In fact, I never “went to the Clock” … although I would have, in a cosmos just a little further up the Wick

Update: Corrected spelling of “Halikaarnian”.


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Agreed 100%. Seveneves could easily have been split into half, with especially the second half being given a fuller treatment instead of… I’ve already blocked the MacGuffin there. Fall has that same approach to a detailed set building and stage dressing portion, followed by a hurried WTFedness. The rushed ending chapter of previous books is now a plot salad, half a volume long… and evidently editors aren’t calling him on it, or just bottom out after 500 pages.

My bad. I thought it was the first book in the Baroque Cycle. Shaftoes and Enoch Root and Waterhouses show up in all of them. Easy to lose track!

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